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A New Peal of Bells at Barwick Church

from The Barwicker No.55
Sept. 1999

Listen to Barwick Church's bells. This recording was made on 30th October 2004 when a peel was rung to celebrate the 400th year of the oldest bell in the tower.
General view of the Belfry showing five of the bells.

Photograph of the oldest bell (AD1604) ready to be rung"

The Parish Magazine (or Church News as it was called when the items below were written) gives us a unique account of the religious and the wider life of the parish. Only a small fraction of the editions published in the first half of the century are now available to us but we are fortunate that the church authorities thought fit to preserve copies from 1959 onwards in the vestry.
All too often in newspapers and other documents we read an advanced notice of an event only to find that it is not reported after it has occurred. Or some activity is described after its completion without detailing the long and drawn out planning which has brought about its success. However no such problems arise in the magazine's accounts of the successful repair and augmentation of the Barwick church bells in the early 1960s when Rev. Butcher was rector. We are taken from the identification of the original (dangerous) problem, through the first tentative steps at a solution and then with greater confidence to the successful conclusion, taking time out in the process to give us details of the history and character of the bells.


JANUARY 1960. At the moment of writing, bell ringing at the Parish Church has been temporarily limited to the use of the treble bell. The Church clock remains in order though it will not chime the hours. A wire supporting one of the iron weights in the Church clock mechanism broke, and the weight (several hundredweights) plunged 15 feet to cause considerable damage on the floor and break a supporting stone buttress. A beam which supported part of the cloakroom floor and originally rested on the buttress, now hangs precariously; and restrictions on bell ringing have been imposed to avoid further damage and as a protective measure for the bellringers.


JUNE 1960. At the last meeting of the parochial Parish Council, it was agreed that Messrs. John Taylor and Co. of Loughborough should be given the commission to turn and rehang our three Church bells in a new cast-iron framework on steel foundation girders, capable of carrying a ring of six bells, at a cost of 1040. Nothing appears to have been done to our bells since 1844, and the largest bell especially, dated 1604 and weighing 15 cwts., is in immediate need of attention, both to protect the ringers and for its own preservation.
Because of the great amount of money involved, we have deliberated long over this decision, but the Church Council is convinced that immediate action must be taken. Within a few weeks, therefore, the bells will be removed and we hope to have them restored in time for Christmas. We hope, however, sometime to add three new bells, each of which will cost about 250, and should anyone be desirous of giving a bell either as a straightforward gift or in memory of someone or something, we shall be glad to hear from them.
SEPTEMBER 1960. At its last meeting, the Barwick Church Committee decided, on financial grounds, merely to repair the existing three bells at a cost of 1040, and not, as a strong minority wished, to purchase three extra bells at an additional cost of 740. However, with his usual enthusiasm for good works, Mr Fred Fleetwood has enlisted the support of various people willing to give 2 guineas a year for seven years for the provision of the extra bells, and already enough money has been promised to purchase one extra bell.
Mr Fleetwood is anxious to extend the scheme and he would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in this project. Thanks are expresed to Dr R Mattock (President of Cross Gates Rotary Club) for the gift of 2 guineas for the new bells, and to 'Anon of Scholes' (1) and 'Anon of Scholes' (2) for gifts of 10 and 2 guineas for the same project. The gift of 1 from 'Anon of Scholes' (3) for the Scholes New Church Fund is also acknowledged.
FEBRUARY 1961. We have been informed by the Messrs. John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough that our new bells were cast on January 25th. and we have therefore arranged for the Archdeacon of Leeds to dedicate them and re-dedicate the old on Sunday, March 19th. at 11am.
As already recorded the Church Council was forced to spend 1,100 on the preservation of the three old bells, which had received no attention since 1844, but when it was proposed that the new bells be purchased at the cost of 700, the Council felt that it could not enter into further expenditure. However Mr Fred Fleetwood took it upon himself to persuade a number of people to promise contributions over a period of seven years so that the cost of the extra three bells might be met. Various other people have, of course, contributed occasional gifts which have already been recorded.
The cost of the three extra bells having been promised, the Council was therefore glad to underwrite their cost and order them; and our new peal of 6 bells, based on our incomparable tenor bell of 1604, will be one of the best of its type in the country.
MAY 1961. We were glad to welcome to the Parish Church on the evening of Palm Sunday (March 26th.) the Archdeacon of Leeds who, during the course of the service, dedicated the three new bells and re-dedicated the three old bells which have been 'turned' and and retuned. It is often the custom to invite outside ringers to ring on the occasion of a dedication, but we decided that our own ringers should be given the honour. They had less than a week to practise with the new bells but their performance and the sound of the bells gave general delight.
The names of the initial ringers are Gerald Nutton (Captain), Fred Fleetwood, K Goodall, Michael Lawrence, J Goodall, Peter Spearman, and Brian Foxcroft - and to them we extend our congratulations and thanks. Regular practices are now held and the number of our ringers continues to increase, but we shall be glad to hear from any others who are interested.
The Diocese has given us a grant of 200 towards the repair of the old bells and we record with thanks the following gifts for the new bells: 5 (two new Barwickians), 4 guineas (Scarborough), 1 (Anon.) and 2 guineas (Scholes).
We shall publish an inventory of the bells in our next issue. The official inaugural appeal will be rung by the Ringers of Leeds Parish Church on Thursday, May 4th. at 7.30pm with a Peal of Bob Minor (720 changes).
JUNE 1961. In response to many enquiries -and as a record - we include the following information for our readers.
The tower was built during the Incumbency of the Revd. Richard Burnham, Rector, 1432-1457, probably replacing an older one. The building of the tower is commemorated in the two niches which enrich the west front. One contains a statue of Henry Vavasour, who provided the stone; and the other, now empty, presumably contained the statue of Richard Burnham.
There are six bells. The three smallest weighing, respectively, 4 cwts. 19 lbs., 4 cwts. 3 qrs. 19 lbs. and 6 cwts. 4 lbs., were cast in 1961 by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough, and bear no inscription save the Rector's name and date.
The fourth bell was probably cast in 1668 and recast in 1844 by C and G Mears of Whitechapel. It bore the inscription 'Fac tibi Baptista sit ut acceptabillis ista', with a head, probably that of John the Baptist. Its original weight was 8 cwts. 3 qrs. 19lbs. but it lost 1 qr. 20 lbs. in the recasting. Its present weight is 7cwts. 2 qrs. 27 lbs.
The fifth bell was probably cast in 1668, and recast with the fourth bell in 1844. It bore the inscription 'Venite extultemus Domino 1668'. Its original weight was 11 cwts. 3 qrs. 19 lbs. which was increased after recasting to 12 cwts. 1 qr. 14 lbs. Its present weight is 11 cwts. 3 qrs. 14 lbs.
The Tenor bell was cast in 1604 by William Oldfield of Nottingham, who had branches in York and Doncaster. It bears the inscription, with the founder's mark 'In jucunditate soni sonabo tibi Dne et dulcedine vocis cantabo tuo Dne 1604.' Its original weight was 15cwts. but it now weighs 12 cwts. 3 qrs. 8 lbs. The apparent loss of weight is due to the fact that that bell founders today have a different sytem of weighing. The weight of a bell is now that of the actual bell metal, but in former days the clapper and other objects were included.
(This edition also included the following advertisement for bellringers. (Ed.))

JULY 1961. Mr Gerald Nutton, the Master of our Parish Church Bell Ringers, reports:
'Three months have passed since the dedication of the Parish Church Bells. In this time considerable progress in the ringing of the bells has been made. The seven original ringers have attended services and practices regularly. In addition seven of the new recruits have practised keenly and are ready to ring in peal. Although it will not be for some years that we have a competent change ringing team in the village, some changes have already been made in the form of 'call changes'. Those people arriving at Church between five and ten minutes before a service may often have a poor opinion of the present standard of bell ringing. This is because the bells are being 'rung down' during this period. 'Ringing down' is the most difficult ringing operation to perform, but rapid steps towards remedying this deficiency are being taken."
Mr Nutton also reports in a footnote that some of the new recruits are somewhat disappointed to note little or no increase in chest measurement!!!

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